I've just returned home from a two-week trip to Turkey and Greece following the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul. Amazing! Our group traveled more than 1,800 miles in Turkey and 900 miles in Greece in a modern Mercedes bus. It was exhausting! Nevertheless, Paul went over much of that same terrain on foot. Again, amazing! I have always had a great appreciation for Paul's focus, tenacity and effectiveness in spreading the gospel over so many miles and across so many cultures. That appreciation has now only grown. How did he do it? And what can we learn from Paul for our own missionary challenges today?
Here's one major insight I bring back from Turkey (known as Asia Minor in the Bible). Paul went to the best schools in Tarsus, which was known in many cultural contexts as having some of the best schools in the ancient world, rivaling Alexandria and Athens in this regard. So Paul received the best education of his day in Greek culture, languages, rhetoric, philosophy and history. In addition, Paul also went to Jerusalem to study under the famed teacher Gamaliel. This provided him with the best Jewish teachers in theology, ethics and Bible. In summary, Paul's superior education in Tarsus and Jerusalem was an incredible tool for his future vocation as a missionary to peoples of many cultures and religions. Without Paul's great educational background and cross-cultural experience, he wouldn't have had the necessary tools to spread the gospel with Jew and Gentile, from Jerusalem to Rome.
On May 20, 175 leaders graduated from Luther Seminary. Amazing! Our mission is to train leaders for a missionary engagement with North America and the whole world. The challenges for this kind of ministry are only growing more complex in our day. In fact, to a remarkable degree, these challenges are looking much like Paul's in the first century. Like Paul, our leaders must spread the gospel in a world of many cultures and religions. To accomplish this goal, many tools are needed, true. But one of the best tools for putting our graduates in a position to lead local Christian communities is education, the best education of our day. If our students are going to follow Paul's missionary example, they will need every tool at their disposal, including an education that prepares them to spread the gospel with Jew and Gentile, poor and rich, pagan and religious, urban, suburban and rural.
Our prayer for the 175 graduates is that they will take this amazing gift of education, and hear Paul's call to apostolic faithfulness. "Lord, here is your servant, send me!"
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